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My Hypnobirthing Experience : How it changed me, and why I recommend it to all expecting mamas [Postpartum Series]




*All images in this post taken by Vannessa Brown Photography *

Every now and then, when I walk into my master bedroom, I still feel that high from the day my son was born. In less than a month, he will turn a year old, and I find myself reminiscing about the days before his arrival. What I was doing, how I was feeling.

My son was born at home. If you’ve read my birth stories ( here and here ) you’ll know that having a home birth was something that was important to me, but after my first birth didn’t happen at home, I knew I needed an additional tool to help me through labor.

I had heard of hypnobirthing before, but in all honesty, the idea of meditating through labor as a way to manage discomfort and cope through pain (which is really what most women are afraid of when it comes to labor) seemed a little hard to believe. But – I was determined to try it, and to be diligent about it.

If you’ve never heard of hypnobirthing, it’s a form of self hypnosis and guided meditation that you practice before, and while in labor. It guides you through breathing techniques and positive birth imagery and affirmations. It helps your body to relax, and allows it to labor without you fighting against it. It gives you something to focus on to stay calm, and for some women, it has even provided pain-free births.

I bought a hypnobirthing book and read it cover to cover in about 3 days. Pregnancy and labor are topics that I find fascinating, so learning more about the science behind it was incredibly interesting. Once I finished the book, I started to practice the breathing techniques, and every night before bed, I listened to the meditation tracks. It was a routine I continued from the time I was halfway through my pregnancy till the day I went into labor.

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Like with many things in life, the more you practice something, the better you are at it. Hypnobirth is no different. It would have been very easy to read the book, listen to the tracks once or twice, and hope that it would help me during labor. I practiced as often as I could. I wanted to train my mind and body to go into a relax and calm state whenever I would listened to the tracks.

In my experience, I started to benefit from hypnobirth even before labor had begun.

I slept better

From the time I was 5 months pregnant, I would got to bed 30 minutes before my regular bed time every night, and I would listen to the meditation tracks. Most of the time, I would fall asleep while listening to them, which was a great sign of relaxation, but since I was already in bed, I easily transitioned into a deep sleep after. We all know how uncomfortable and difficult sleep can be during pregnancy, so deep sleep was so very welcomed.

I felt very connected to my baby 

I had dedicated time, every day, to talk to my baby. I didn’t know whether I was having a boy or a girl, so I never called my baby a name, but every time I practiced hypnobirth, Oliver would move a little bit more, or let me know in a way that he could feel me. My Oliver is a very calm and happy baby, and I feel a lot of has to do with how connected we were from the beginning. He understood me, and I understood him long before he entered earth side.

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Smiling while in active labor. My son was born 15 minutes after this picture was taken.

I experienced a very gentle and calm labor

The day came. My water broke and I knew that labor was imminent. I was preparing for a longer birth since my first was 33 hours, but little did I know that my entire labor would be less than 5 hours from start to finish, and only 2 hours of active labor. Perhaps it was because it was my second birth, but I can very confidently say that I felt the hypnobirth practice make a huge difference. It gave me the skills to learn to trust my body, and to then instinctively go along with what my body was telling me to do.

I experienced a pain-free birth

My decision to practice hypnobirth for my second birth was to help me cope with labor, especially if it happened to be as long as my first. Hypnobirth doesn’t promise a pain-free birth, it is simply a tool that allows you to surrender to your body to let it do what it already knows how to do. In my case, I experienced tightening and pressure, but in no moment did I experience pain.

It kept me extremely calm in what could have been a traumatic birth

My son had shoulder dystocia at birth, so his entry to the earth side was not as gentle as I would have liked it to be, and it was a little scary. In spite of this, I was calm and connected to my baby, I knew he was OK all along, and even with a few crazy minutes towards the end of labor, his birth was beautiful, calm and a very positive experience.

It tapped into a strength inside me I didn’t know I had 

After my son was born, my midwifes were checking him to make sure he was OK after his shoulder dystocia birth. It was a very easy moment for me to panic and be scared, yet the opposite happened. In the most vulnerable moment, I strength inside I didn’t know I had manifested in song, as I calmly sang my baby to wake.

Recovery was easier

After the birth of my daughter, I remember so many muscles in my body hurting, especially my back from curling over while pushing, and my eyes were quite swollen from the pressure. One of the things hypnobirth talks about is not having to push, because your body will do it on it’s own. I practiced this with Oliver, and after he was born, I clearly remember that the only discomfort I felt was in my abdomen, because it was the only part of my body that had done the hard work during labor, and I recovered very easily.

The first weeks postpartum were calmer

The nights when he cluster fed as a newborn and I was getting very little sleep, I would practice my breathing and meditation while he was nursing. It helped me get through those harder nights a lot easier, and he was calmer after it too. I like to think that my calmness in those moments was passed to him through my milk.

On the days the kids drive me crazy today…. I still go back to that calm

The days that the kids are cranky, or whiny, or are crying more often that usual. I go back to that calm, I slow down and remember to breathe the way that I did while in labor, and I feel better. It’s a tool that I use still, months even after my baby was born.

It gave me a very positive birth experience

My birth wasn’t perfect. Then again, what is a perfect birth? Every woman’s journey is unique. There is no text book birth, and sometimes holding on to that idea is perhaps what leads us to be disappointed when the outcome is different. Hypnobirth gave me confidence that my birth was going to be exactly what my body and my baby needed, and to feel positive about the experience that I had.

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My Affirmation Wall.

Pregnancy and labor are experiences that are different and unique to every woman. In my experience, even my own births were quite different from one another. Hypnobirth was an amazing tool that helped me stay calm and in control during my pregnancy, birth, and even postpartum. The benefits of this practice are something I continue to use on a regular basis in my motherhood journey. I couldn’t recommend this more to all expecting mamas.

Did you practice hypnobirth? Did it help you during labor or postpartum? I would love to hear your stories!

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Oliver’s Birth Story – A Strength in me Born [Postpartum Series]

[All the images in this post taken by Vannessa Brown Photography]

9 months ago, I met my little Oliver. For months, I spoke to him while in the womb, caressing his little body through my skin, counting down the days until I would know his face. I say “his”, but at the time, I didn’t know what I was having. Unlike my first pregnancy, the feeling on what I was carrying this time wasn’t as strong. A few weeks before going into labor, I had a dream that my baby was born en caul, and pressed against an intact amniotic membrane, all I could see was a little piece of male anatomy. It was then, that for the first time in my pregnancy, I had a strong feeling that I could be carrying a son.

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I was much more relaxed going into pregnancy second time around. Knowing what to expect when it came to everything – pregnancy, labor, postpartum, breastfeeding, caring for a new born, sleep (or lack there of) – was comforting. Initially, I was nervous to attempt a home birth again, but I knew it was still something I wanted, it was important to me. We were fortunate enough to work with the same midwife who delivered our first, which helped so much. She knew us, she knew our experience, and I felt so safe to have her go through this journey with us again.

My “due date” came and went, which I expected. I made peace with the fact that I simply gestate a little longer, and knew my baby would come when it was ready, which was going to be soon.

November 25th. It was a Friday afternoon, and my daughter and I were both taking a nap. At 40+2 weeks pregnant, every day was potentially the day my baby could arrive, and I needed to take every opportunity I could to rest. Not only was I going to be going into labor any time soon, but after that, I was going to be a mother to a newborn and a toddler- I needed all the rest I could get. When I woke up, I felt a more than normal amount of discharge between my legs. It caught my attention, but this late in pregnancy, I assumed it was a normal pregnancy symptom. My daughter woke up, and as I lifted her out of her crib, I felt another gush of discharge; this time, enough to drip down the inside of my thigh. My waters had broken.

I called my midwife to let her know. The fluid was clear, I had no other symptoms, and we agreed to keep in touch as things progressed. Though I wasn’t in active labor, my husband decided to come home once I called him. I remember he told me his coworkers teased him, because of course his wife would go into labor early on a Friday afternoon to start the weekend early, haha.

My husband got home, I put on a sanitary pad, and continued our day as normal. Later in the evening, my midwife called to check on my progress, and since there hadn’t been any, we agreed that if nothing happened overnight, she would come over first thing in the morning to discuss our options. My husband and I decided to put our daughter to sleep downstairs in our guest bedroom, just in case, and called it a night.

At around 10:30 pm, 7 hours after my waters broke, labor began and I felt my first little surge. I was GBS positive, and it wasn’t too long before my contractions were far apart enough for me to need the first dose of antibiotics administered. My midwife and I chatted while the IV bag emptied, and I would stop and breathe through my surges as needed, and we laughed that the contraction tracker on my phone was telling me “Go to the hospital now!”. My midwife didn’t think she had come over to deliver a baby yet, and neither did I. Contractions were quickly becoming more frequent, but they still very manageable, and since she lived 5 minutes from my house, it was better for her to go home and rest, and come back when I actually needed her. She left our house just a little after midnight.

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After she left, my husband and I went back to bed. I had my head phones on playing my hypnobirth tracks, and would fall in and out of sleep through my contractions. The room was dark, and in an almost dream like state, I moved my body as needed through my labor; sometimes lying down, sometimes on all fours, sometimes sitting down, whatever felt right to get through the surges. At around 1:30 am, things were starting to change; active labor had begun. I called my midwife and just said “I think I need you here”. We decided we wouldn’t call any family to come over and watch my daughter at this point; there was no reason to disturb anyone’s sleep. If she woke up, we would go from there. I texted my birth photographer letting her know it was time, and at 2:15 am ish, my entire birth team was with me.

At this point, my body had taken over. I was bearing down without my control, and sometimes, that pressure made me sick too, so I carried my handy throw up bucket with me at all times, ha. My husband got the birth pool ready, and though I was eager to get into the comfort of the warm water, I wanted to advance as much as in my labor before getting in. I realize my concern was a little irrational, since my body was starting to push at this point – we didn’t even have time to do a second dose of antibiotics. I asked my midwife to check me before getting in the water, she responded, “Nope. You need to get in the pool, now!”, and so I did.

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Getting into the the pool was just as lovely as I remembered. The warmth of the water and it’s weightlessness was exactly what I needed. My body was doing what it was supposed to do, I was calm and in control. I was able to have conversation in between my contractions, and I was even smiling and laughing…a little, I was in labor after all, haha. I trusted my body to move me into the right position to birth my baby as I could feel the head descending. In the calmest of voices, something we all joked about later since women usually scream this, I said “I can feel the ring of fire”. The student midwife looked, and the head was there. Following her guidance, I pushed my baby’s head out with a few small pushes to make sure it was gentle on both of us. I remember thinking, “I am going to meet my baby soon. Only a few more pushes. I will have my baby on my chest right away”.

For this birth, I was lucky enough to have three midwives present. For any home birth, it is standard to have two, but my midwife had a student midwife who had been working with her (and I) for the past couple of weeks, and I was happy to have her there. Having three midwives at my birth was almost serendipitous, because suddenly, the pace of things changed very quickly, and the next few seconds required all the hands available…

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My baby’s head was delivered, and though I was pushing, the body wasn’t coming out. My baby was stuck. With the head delivered, I climbed out of the birth pool and got on the bed. My midwife was calm, but there was urgency in her voice. I can’t remember if she assigned each midwife a job, but they all seemed to know that to do. I was lying on the bed with the hands of 3 midwives on me; one pushing my baby down, another guiding it center, and the main midwife maneuvering his body to help him out. Within seconds, he was on my chest, but the sense of urgency was still there. My husband was asked to call EMS, my baby’s airway was being suctioned, his heart beat monitored, oxygen being pumped into his little nose and mouth; everything to make sure he was OK after a somewhat traumatic birth. Once stable, the student midwife took over the EMS call my husband was on, and he came back into the room.

Everything happened within a minute or two, max; but it was a lot. Though I know it happened (because I was there) and because we talked about it afterwards, in the moment, I experienced something completely different.

From the moment I got out of the pool, in the middle of so much action, movement and unknown, my world was calm and quiet. On November 26th, at 3:26 am, less than 5 hours since I had felt my first contractions, I pushed my baby out with the assistance of my midwives. I held my baby on my chest, and immediately felt his little hand grab my finger. In that moment, in an uncontrollable, almost animalistic impulse, I began to sing.

I began to sing.

In the moment I least expected, but in the moment I needed it, in the moment my baby needed it the most, a new strength in me awakened. The feelings that coexist within you while you are both strong and vulnerable for the ones you love, transforms you. It transformed me. In that moment, the most powerful, yet gentle strength inside of me came out, manifested in song. I was singing my baby a lullaby to wake – isn’t the irony in that is so fucking beautiful?! I knew everything was going to be OK. Already a mother, I was a mother born again, and my identity once again defined. My husband came back into the room, saw his wife and baby both healthy, and tears of joy ran down his face. We had a son; our little Oliver.

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My husband and I sat with our little boy. We hugged him, kissed him, welcomed him to the world. One of the midwives asked us what his name was, and we both immediately knew. Oliver Adam. Oliver after the “Olive Tree” which symbolized everything he was; beauty, dignity and peace, and Adam after his father. He was a beautiful. Born with a full head of hair, and the chubbiest little cheeks, he was perfect. He was calm, looking around at the world and taking it all in so confidently. At only a few minutes old, I was already so proud of him, and so proud to be his mother.

Our third stage of labor was managed. I received a shot of pitocin on my thigh after Oliver was born, and my placenta was delivered immediately after. Labor was officially done. My perineum was intact (which I was so grateful for, once again), and both Oliver and I were doing well. I was hooked up to an IV, just in case, since the birth had been a little traumatic, and my midwife wanted to be prepared and monitor me closely for the next couple of hours. EMS arrived shortly after, checked our vitals, confirmed that both Oliver and I were doing well, and after some paper work between them and my midwives, they left.

Once things settled, we debriefed about what had happened. As a bigger baby, a whole 9 lbs 8 oz chunk, Oliver experienced shoulder dystocia, which is when the anterior shoulder gets stuck behind the pubic bone during delivery. It was something we could have not foreseen, and I was so incredibly grateful to have had such an excellent birth team to have handled it so incredibly well.

I cleaned up a bit, my husband did skin to skin with his son, and my midwives made the bed with fresh sheets. We were in pure post birth bliss. I couldn’t stop smiling and was on the happiest high. I had a beautiful son, I had the home birth I wanted, and even with the scary minute towards the end, perhaps especially because of it, I had found a new strength within me, both physically and emotionally.

The world never gives you anything more than you can handle, and this birth, this beautiful birth, is what the world had given me.

My son was born in our master bedroom, in the early hours of the night while his sister peacefully slept downstairs. My little family was complete. My husband and I enjoyed our little son alone for a few hours, and when morning came, we woke his sister up so they could meet. The most beautiful moment of my life… (to be continued)

Thank you for reading xo

Penelope’s Birth Story here

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